Sen. Ed Markey Hit With 3 'Pinocchios' for 'Slave Owners,' Filibuster Claim


Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is getting slapped with three “Pinocchios” regarding his claim about the filibuster.

Markey tweeted on March 16, “The filibuster was created so that slave owners could hold power over our government.”

That tweet landed the Democratic lawmaker with three “Pinocchios” by The Washington Post. The Post delivers “three Pinocchios” to claims that have “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.”

The Post notes on delivering “three Pinocchios” to statements, “This gets into the realm of ‘mostly false.’ But it could include statements which are technically correct (such as based on official government data) but are so taken out of context as to be very misleading.”

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The Post took on Markey’s claim where he suggested slave owners “created” the filibuster so that they could “hold power over our government.”

“The thing is rotten to the core, he seems to suggest,” the Post writes in its fact check. “But the filibuster’s origins are not so tainted.”

“Depending on which historical account you read, the earliest use of the Senate filibuster can be traced to 1790, 1837 or 1841. None of these involved enslavers’ issues.

Historians note that John C. Calhoun, a prominent Southerner and defender of slavery, was an early adopter of the filibuster as a tool to delay legislative action. Fair enough. But he didn’t create it.”

The Washington Post

The topic of the filibuster has made headlines recently. The filibuster could get in the way of Democrats pushing through their legislative agenda. Democrats say the filibuster “gives Republicans the power to veto anything they dislike,” the Post reports.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently declared that doing away with the filibuster would lead to a “completely scorched earth” in the Senate.

As the Post notes on how the filibuster works:

“Each senator may take the floor to speak on any issue for as long as needed. To ‘filibuster’ is to use that debate time indefinitely in order to prevent the Senate from taking other actions — say, a vote on pending legislation. These days, senators do not actually have to take the floor and fill the speaking time. They simply send a message signaling an intent to filibuster, and the bill automatically faces a 60-vote threshold.”

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The Post points out that the first usage of the word “filibuster” to “indicate legislative obstruction” was not until 1853.

“Filibustering became theoretically possible in 1806, but the first known instance did not come until decades later,” the Post’s fact-checker, Salvador Rizzo, writes, later adding, “Other historical accounts place the first recorded filibusters in 1841.”

After the Post reached out to Markey’s office, his spokesperson pointed to the book “Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy.” As Rizzo writes, in the book, “Jentleson argues that John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, a senator, vice president and defender of slavery, was the one who pioneered the filibuster in its modern form: as a delay tactic with little to do with actual debate.”

Rizzo adds, “That’s a mainstream historical view. Neither Jentleson nor other historians claim Calhoun devised the filibuster from scratch.”

Therefore, the fact-checker concludes that Markey “is referring to John C. Calhoun, who helped make the filibuster notorious as a delay tactic used for white-supremacist ends. But that’s not the same as inventing it.”

“Lawmakers dedicated to preserving slavery or segregation may have exploited the filibuster for their own purposes, but they did not create it,” Rizzo writes. “Markey earns Three Pinocchios.”

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